An intimate view on my journey
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Getting ready for my holidays, I didn’t want to write a blog about upgrading performance or any topic related to hard work. On the other hand, that’s what I do for a living. And since corporate health is becoming more and more important, I decided to share my personal story with you. How I am catching my own Big Fish: finding a healthy eating pattern and saying goodbye to my overweight forever.
I guess it ís a story of upgrading performance anyway. And hard work for sure. Now I’m at the point where I lost 55 pounds (25 kilograms) over the last 4 months. Despite the fact that I am only halfway through my journey, I hope to inspire some of you to take the first step, no matter how much weight you want to lose. And for those dealing with “big people”, I hope you understand that “just do it” doesn’t work for them. There’s a reason why they are not using your corporate gym or other benefits related to health. And it has nothing to do with lack of willpower. So here is what I experienced myself. From my point of view.
(1) Decide whether or not it is an option for you to be big
In fact my journey started more than a year ago. I started a new executive Coaching trajectory with a well-performing director when she told me she felt as if her weight was holding her back to be more successful. In Coaching there is always transference and countertransference but this time I was bewildered. Not so much by her conclusion although she wasn’t big at all. But by her telling it to me, double her size. I thought she was just beautiful. So we talked about it and at one point she literally said: “I am glad you feel good being big, but for me that’s not an option”. That sentence kept haunting my head on my way home and many weeks after. Why was it an option for me to be big?
I have always been big. For all I know, I could have been president of the “Big is beautiful movement”. But although I never struggled with my self-confidence, I was not happy with my physical health. It felt like being pregnant non-stop. Too much belly in the way. Bad physical condition. And it went from bad to worse over the last few years. I guess once you pass the age of 40 the effects of being corpulent are much more pronounced? I am sure there have been studies around that topic. My conclusion: it was not an option for me. I needed to change some things. And it had nothing to do with self-confidence, performance or beauty. I desperately needed to be more healthy. Just for myself.
(2) Be prepared to dig deep
Being a behaviour specialist myself, needless to say I have been searching for the mechanisms that fed my eating disorder since many years. Why was I eating this way? And I am not saying I ate a lot. On the contrary. I ate almost nothing. Nothing but the wrong food. M&m’s for lunch, Snickers for dinner. Working hard, no time, always on the road. Many excuses that kept me hostage to my own eating disorder. Guided by a dietician, I could eat healthy for weeks. Eating much more than I ever had. Losing the weight as if it was nothing. Easy you’d think. No way. I stopped and fell into my old behaviour time after time. Eating only sugar and fat. And on top of that the moments of binge eating with anything that was around, tasty or not, filling a bottomless pit.
As a Coach, I work with a Coach for my own performance. And since this was “my topic”, we decided to start digging. What was the size of that bottomless pit? Could I draw it? And suddenly I knew. It was exactly the size of my car. And I am an avid car lover. The smallest issues occur and I am already standing in the garage. Carwash minimum once a week. Minimum. So could it be I was caring for my car as if it was the missing piece of me? The bottomless pit? Maybe you’ll laugh reading this, but for me it was a revelation. And I am aware of the fact that not all people with overweight are walking around with a car in their belly, but for me, there was my answer. Imagine eating a car every day. No wonder I was big.
(3) Decide to take care of yourself
Knowing what drives your poor eating habits, me taking care of my car instead of my own body, is only the beginning. Of course there’s more drama behind the car. I do believe that people whom over-eat are all filling up some form of emptiness. Without going into details, probably my biggest discovery was that I was the one maintaining that emptiness in my every day life. Not giving yourself what you deserve. Because you never learned how it was supposed to be? Or because we are human and by all means defending the status quo? Who’ll say. Everyone has a different story to tell.
So to build further on my car-revelation, you need to know I am only driving on high performance fuel. My car is faster and it is better for my engine. I feel the difference when I don’t. Now I know it’s the same with the human body. Eating healthy instead of over-eating/crash-dieting makes my body perform better. So it’s my choice. Lots of proteins lead to healthier hair. It’s a small example. One of many. So I finally decided to take care of myself. To be aware of the food I eat and which impact it has on my body in terms of metabolism, muscles, hormones, etc. Knowing my body needs enough sleep to recover. And I started thinking long term.
(4) Find another way to fill up the emptiness
It might sound crazy, but if you aren’t using the food as a survival strategy anymore, you’ll need to face your demons in another way. You don’t solve your life-long issues in one day. So I had to find a healthy escape in times of difficulties. Something that could channel my emotions and prevented me from going back to my old eating habits. These are for sure the moments you need to have a clear mind on what you really want. I believe we all have enough willpower to succeed. If only we are committed enough to our goal. And it’s not the willpower lacking, it’s the commitment. And even more, your commitment to you choosing yourself as the most important person in your life, deserving only the best.
I decided – very consciously – I needed to find another emotional exhaust valve. It can be anything. I’m fond of acrylic painting, and in my search for alternatives I started reading books again, a thing I hadn’t been doing for many years although I never stopped buying them. I love love love it. How the intensity of an exciting story can take you to another place and time. How it expands your world. Giving your own thoughts and reality a break. And of course it is an escape. You’ll still need to handle your issues. By preference work with a coach. So do I. But it’s a healthy escape.
If you are lucky enough to be able to use sport as an exhaust valve, you’re hitting two birds with one stone. Unfortunately, although I absolutely love it once I am on the move, showing up is still a challenge for me. So I decided to hire a personal trainer. One that shows up at my doorstep and gives me no opportunity to say no. One that challenges me and can handle my strong personality. But also important, one that really knows what he’s doing. Working with me, tailor-made.
Our workouts remind me of the boot-camps you see on TV. Pushing my limits and always going one step further than I would be able to do on my own. It can be weight lifting, cardio, abs, even boxing. It’s always a surprise for me. Keeps it fun and diversified. When my trainer tells me a little muscle damage is good for me, I love and hate him for that at the same time. I recognize that being able to work this way one on one is the crème de la crème, but whatever you do, start moving. You’ll feel the benefits immediately.
(6) Don’t be your own worst enemy
Once you faced your demons, once you decided to really take care of yourself and your body and once you started to move and eat healthy, you’ll automatically lose the weight. But then! I think I only lost a few pounds, saw it worked and then I panicked. I was literally losing myself. I was scared of becoming too skinny (don’t laugh). Need I tell you my trainer was confused. What did I want?
Often we are afraid of taking up our challenges because we are scared to go into extremes. And those extremes are often in our allergy zone. It’s the core quadrant theory by Daniel Ofman. Even if we are still far from reaching our goal, the fact that we could get carried away puts on an automatic brake. It took me back to the first step. Maybe I was afraid of people not liking me anymore. I have always been big. But I did not want to go back to before. And then at one point I could accept the fact that I might be a lot skinnier in the future. And that’s a good thing.
(7) The weight is only a consequence
To be honest, the weight loss an sich wasn’t my main goal. The health was. And still is. By focussing on weight only, you’re in fact only treating the symptoms. Not addressing the cause. That’s also why crash-dieting didn’t work for me in the past. Neither did the use of meal replacement with shakes and other protein based products. I did lose the weight though. And it was easy to do. Not to worry about what to eat. But afterwards, since I didn’t learn how to eat properly, I gained the lost pounds very fast. And I am aware of the fact there are very good programs with substitute meals that are phased towards a normal eating pattern. My problem was I didn’t get there. It was all or nothing.
Since four months I am eating healthy and balanced, also guided by my personal trainer whom is an expert in what food does for your body. I would absolutely not consider it to be a diet. I have been cooking so many good meals based on proteins, carbohydrates and vegetables. Eating yoghurt and fruit. Drinking water. And still, when I am on my scale, I am pleasantly surprised that all this great and tasty food is bringing me the amazing weight loss. Almost unbelievable but it works. And the funny thing is, since I’m not on a diet, I never have to stop doing this. Isn’t that the best thing ever?
(8) Surround yourself with believers
Maybe you are surprised by how emotionally charged my story is. That’s why it is important for me to be surrounded with people that support me in my cause. I get the biggest support from the people that thought I was just as beautiful being big. They don’t judge. They only cheer in my quest for health. Saying that, I don’t believe I’m becoming a “better” person by doing this. Not a better coach, a better mother or a better friend. And of course some things are easier now, but that’s my personal gain. It’s physical ease. I only lose the weight, not myself.
As I mentioned above, there’s nothing like “just do it” when it comes down to beating poor eating habits and picking up on sports. And of course no pain no gain and you “have to do it”. But there’s a lot more to it. That’s why you can use all the positive support that is available. Only by fully committing and by addressing my reason to eat I was able to make a change. And I can’t thank enough the people that are guiding and coaching me through this. The people that believe in me, no matter my size. And there will definitely be difficult moments ahead, but I’m using 100% of my willpower to get there, because that’s what I want the most.
My big fish.
Thank your for reading my story. And please don’t hesitate to share your comments, ideas and experiences. To join the discussion, click here. In the end, this blog post is not about me. I only want to make a difference by stepping forward. And for me, it shows the power of working with a professional Coach, whether it is health, performance or otherwise.
If you want to share your personal story with me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be honoured to share our thoughts. And if you are an organization exploring health support for one or more of your executives, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m not where I want to be yet but looking forward to talk to you already.
Sofie Varrewaere is the founder of BigFish4.me. After studying a Master in Psychological and Pedagogical Sciences, she ogled into the magical world of Recruitment, Selection and HR Services. Working for the world leader in HR, she has always been in an advisory role in relation to the larger goals of several multinational organizations. In 2013 she started her own company in International executive Coaching. Doing what she is good at, challenging others as well as herself.